Smartphones are on the rise, according to new data from Gartner, which revealed several firsts in the industry.
Worldwide mobile phone sales totaled 269.1 million units in the first quarter of 2009 - an 8.6 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2008, Gartner reports - while smartphone sales increased 12.7 percent from the same period last year, totaling more than 36.4 million units for the quarter.
Smartphones now represent 13.5 percent of all mobile device sales, up from 11 percent in the first quarter of 2008.
"There were some signs of recovering in markets such as North America and China, but overall sales in the first quarter of 2009 registered the biggest quarter-on-quarter contraction since Gartner began monitoring the market on a quarterly basis in 2001," Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Gartner, wrote in the May 20 report.
"This was also the first year the market contracted year over year during the first quarter, a period traditionally helped by strong seasonality in the Asia/Pacific market," Milanesi added.
Nokia again led worldwide smartphone sales to end users in the first quarter of 2009, shipping just shy of 15 million units, though market share fell from 45.1 percent a year earlier to 41.2 percent.
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion again took second position, shipping 7.2 million smartphones and bumping its market share from 13.3 percent to 19.9 percent.
In third place, Apple more than doubled its market share from the first quarter of 2008, jumping from 5.3 percent to 10.8 percent, with shipments of 3.9 million units.
HTC pulled ahead of Fujitsu, raising its market share from 4 percent to 5.4 percent and shipping 1.9 million units. And the fifth-place Fujitsu, with its share falling to 3.8 from 4.1, shipped 1.4 million units.
"Much of the smartphone growth during the first quarter of 2009 was driven by touch-screen products, both mid-tier and high-end devices," wrote Robert Cozza, another analyst. "-Touch for the sake of touch' was enough of a driver in the mid-tier space, but tighter integration with applications and services around music, mobile e-mail and Internet browsing made the difference at the high end of the market."
Worldwide, Symbian was the leading smartphone operating system, though market share fell from 56.9 percent to 49.3 percent. RIM's smartphone OS followed, with 19.9 percent of the market, up from 13.3 percent a year earlier. And finally the Apple iPhone OS, which grew its market share to 10.8 percent, from 5.3 percent a year earlier, was the third most popular smartphone operating system.
Gartner reports that the channel intensified its efforts to reduce stock levels in the quarter, and sales into the channel were just short of 244 million units. Sales to users, however, were just over 269 million units - a difference of 25 million units from the fourth quarter of 2008, which Gartner notes is the biggest difference it has ever recorded.
"With inventory-reduction efforts expected to continue in the second quarter of 2009, although to a lesser extent than what we have seen so far ... we remain confident that overall sales to users for 2009 will remain considerably higher than the sell-in that many vendors are expecting," wrote Milanesi. "Device vendors will focus increasingly on smartphones, improved user interfaces and services to differentiate themselves and fuel consumer demand."
Milanesi went on to say that Gartner expects sales to users to decrease by 4 percent in 2009, from 2008 numbers, and for sell-in to slow by 10 percent.